See also Winter in Scandinavia.
The major holidays are Easter, Christmas Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are all considered holidays, and the "common vacation" throughout July. In May there are several holidays including constitution day 17 May - the main national celebration and an attraction in itself.
Public holidays schools and offices closed:
1 January - New Years day
Maundy Thursday Holy Thursday, "Skjærtorsdag"
Good Friday "Langfredag"
Easter Sunday "påskedag"
Second day of Easter Monday "andre påskedag"
1 May - Labour day
17 May - Constitution Day
Ascension Thursday "Kristi himmelfart"
Pentecost Whit Sunday, "pinsedag"
Pentecost 2ed Whit Monday, "andre pinsedag"
25 December - Christmas Day "juledag"
26 December - Boxing Day "andre juledag"
Note that many Norwegian holidays are celebrated on the day before Holy Saturday, Christmas Eve etc. On Christmas Eve "julekveld", "julaften", New Years Eve "nyttårsaften", Holy Saturday "påskeaften" and Saturday before Pentecost "pinseaften" shops close early. Norwegians also celebrate midsummer at St. John's day on June 24 by making a bonfire late evening the day before - "St.John's Eve" "St.Hansaften" or "Jonsokaften".
The Viking kingdoms of Norway were unified in 872 AD by Harald Fairhair. In the following period, Norwegians settled in many places, such as Iceland, the Faroe Islands and parts of Scotland and Ireland, where they founded Dublin. In the beginning of the 14th century, Norway and Sweden were unified as the Norwegian king was also elected king of Sweden. At the end of the century, the two countries and Denmark were unified in the so-called Kalmar Union.
Sweden broke out of the union in 1521. Norway remained in union with Denmark until 1814. Only a few months after the declaration of independence, Norway entered into union with Sweden, though it must be noted that this union with Sweden allowed Norway to keep a great deal of independence.
The union with Sweden lasted until 1905, which is considered the beginning of modern Norway. From 1940 until 1945, Norway was occupied by Germany.
Because of the gulf stream, the climate in Norway, especially along the coast, is noticeably warmer than what would otherwise be expected at such a high latitude. Almost half the length of Norway is north of the arctic circle. Summers can be moderately warm up to 30°C, even in northern areas, but only for limited periods. The length of the winter and amount of snow varies. In the north there is more snow and winters are dark; on the southern and western coast, winters are moderate and rainy, while further inland the temperature can easily fall below -25°C. Even in the southeast, winter temperatures of -10ºC to -15ºC are common. Some mountain areas have permanent glaciers and patches of snow can be found in higher elevations even in the summer.
Norway's hours of daylight, temperature and driving conditions vary greatly throughout the year. Seasonal variations crucially depend on region as well as altitude. Note in particular that the area with midnight sun north of the arctic circle also has winter darkness polar night when the sun does not rise above the horizon at all.
Norwegian weather is most pleasant during the summer June to mid-August. If you like snow, go to Norway in December to April. Along the coasts and in southern part of West Norway there is little snow or frost and few opportunities for skiing, even in winter. In the mountains there is snow until May and some mountain passes are closed until the end of May. If you come in the beginning of May some passes can be still closed, but since the snow is melting very quickly, you will get the possibility to enjoy plenty of waterfalls before they disappear. And in this time the number of tourists is very small. Spring in Norway is quite intense due to the abundance of water melting snow in conjunction with plenty of sunlight and quickly rising temperatures typically in May.
Be aware that daylight varies greatly during the year. In Oslo, the sun sets at around 15:30 in December. North of the Arctic Circle one can experience the midnight sun and polar night winter darkness. However, even at Oslo's latitude, summer nights exist only in the form of prolonged twilight during June and July, these gentle "white nights" can also be a nice and unusual experience for visitors. The polar or northern lights aurora borealis occurs in the darker months, frequently at high latitudes Northern Norway but occasionally also further South.
Economy and politics
Norway's primary income is from the oil and gas industry in the North Sea which constitutes nearly a quarter of GDP. It also has several other natural resources such as fish and minerals, some industry, and a healthy technology sector. Politically, it's dominated by a widespread and continued support for the Scandinavian model, which means high taxes and high government spending to support free schools, free healthcare, an efficient welfare system and many other benefits. As a result the unemployment rate in Norway is extremely low at about 2 percent.
The Norwegian people have rejected membership in the European Union EU in two independent popular votes in 1972 and 1994, both times just by a few percent, after being vetoed out of membership by France in the 50s and 60s. However, being a member state of the European Economic Area and part of the Schengen agreement, Norway is closely connected to the EU, and integrated as a full member in most economic matters, as well as in customs and immigration matters. This is of great economic importance to Norway.
As one of the richest countries in the world and with a strong currency, most visitors should be prepared for greater expenses than at home. In addition, Norway has a very compressed wage structure which means that even the typical low skill work is relatively well paid. Despite the extremely high prices, Norwegians enjoy a purchasing power parity per capita significantly higher than both the US and all EU countries. For the same reason, firms try to keep the number of staff as low as possible, even for low skill service work. On the other hand, many attractions in Norway are free of charge, most notably the landscape and nature itself. Furthermore, you don't have to spend much money on accommodation if you're prepared to sleep in a tent or under the open sky. According to the Norwegian right to access, you may stay for up to two nights in one spot in uncultivated land if you keep away from houses and other buildings and out of the way of other people, provided that you leave no trace. If you move far away from people, you can stay for as long as you want.
Norway is one of Europe's most sparsely populated countries. With a population of only 5 million people and a land area of 385,802 km2, the population density is only 16 inhabitants per km2. Most of the population are Norwegians. The indigenous Sami people traditionally inhabit the northern part of Norway, that along with parts of Sweden, Finland and Russia outlines an area known as Sapmi or Sameland. Other recognized minorities are the Kven people, Jews, Forest Finns, and Norwegian Romani Travellers. In recent years, immigration, in particular from the European Union, has increased greatly.
Norwegians are shaped by surviving a harsh climate more than war and social hierarchy, and you'll find them to be generally friendly, but stubborn and fiercely individualistic. The people relies on a common understanding of things, with a lot of effort put in common law and regulation but with little hierarchy. A tradition where you don't rely much on a ruler or a fast moving society, but where some neighbours are all you have and you will probably have to depend on at least one of them for your life, and more than once. So it takes time to get to know Norwegians properly. Some misunderstand it as coldness, but the reasons are more skepticism and slowness of change. If you get to know one of these people, you get to know them on the depth. There's little front, they don't have that many people in their circles, so they probably won't trust you all that much unless they get to know you down to your faults. And they don't expect you to rush it either, for desperation is a weakness. But once a friendship is tried and tested, it can be solid and warm.
Norway is no longer formally a Christian country. In 2012, the government separated from the church, leaving the country without an official religion. Before this, almost 85% of Norwegians were part of the national church, even though most Norwegians are nonbelievers and the regular church attendance was, and still is as low as 5%.
Norway has become rather liberal in moral issues and thus similar to neighbours like Denmark and Sweden. Homosexuality is accepted by most people and recently 2008 same-sex marriage was given the same legal status as traditional marriage. For instance, a previous male minister of finance and prominent figure in the conservative party is in partnership with a prominent male business manager. With that said, some parts along the southern and southwestern coast are fairly conservative, especially in the more rural areas.
Norway is on a large peninsula shared with Sweden in the north of Europe. In the north, it also borders Finland and Russia.
Norway is well known for its amazing and varied scenery. The fjords in the west of the country are long narrow inlets, flanked on either side by tall mountains where the sea penetrates far inland. By far the major part of the land is a rocky wilderness, and thus Norway has large, completely unpopulated areas, many of which have been converted to national parks. Even outside the national parks, much of the land is unspoiled nature.
A rugged landscape shaped by the Ice Age, shows forested hills and valleys, mountains, waterfalls, and a long coastline with fjords, islands, and mountains growing directly up from the sea. Norway's highest point is Galdhøpiggen, 2,469m 8,100 ft in the Jotunheimen region that lies midway between Oslo and Trondheim, but away from the coast. In the far north Finnmark, you will find flatter open spaces. Several of the world's greatest waterfalls are in Norway, particularly in the western fjords and the mountain region.